Quick Take: Women in the Workforce—ChinaJan 09, 2019
Men Outnumber Women in the World’s Most Populated Nation1
Women are 48.6% of China’s population.2
- China’s gender imbalance has contributed to slowed population and labor force growth, increased proportions of single men, and trafficking of women.3
China’s Aging Population Is on the Rise4
In 2017, 10.8% of China’s population was over 65 years old.5 The elderly (65+) population is expected to rise to about 17.1% by 2030 and about 26.3% by 2050, a projected increase of 15.5% over 33 years.6
The Gender Gap in Tertiary Education Is Closed7
- Women also represented over half (51.7%) of tertiary graduates in 2016.10
China Has One of Asia-Pacific’s Highest Labor Force Participation Rates for Women11
However, women’s labor force participation has been declining since the 1990s. China’s economic reforms resulted in a variety of setbacks for women, including:12
- Diminished employment opportunities for women.
- A widened gender wage gap.
- A lack of childcare options.
- A resurgence of traditional stereotypes about women’s work.
In 2017, 61.5% of women participated in China’s labor force, compared to 76.1% of men.13
- Women made up 43.7% of the total labor force.14
Cultural Norms Disadvantage Working Women15
Gender stereotypes and discriminatory language is prevalent in job advertisements. Nineteen percent of postings for civil service jobs in 2018 listed a requirement or preference for male candidates.16
- In job advertisements targeting women, many include requirements for women to be married with children and to possess specific physical attributes (e.g., height, weight) that are not related to job duties.17
The pension age in China differs between women and men:18
- Women in blue-collar occupations: 50
- Women in white-collar occupations: 55
- Men across all occupations: 60
China’s early retirement age for women limits their opportunities for career development and advancement, reduces their pensions, and decreases their social security benefits.19
Despite High Labor Force Participation, There Are Few Women in Leadership Roles20
In 2018, women made up only 9.4% of board directors from publicly traded companies in China.21
Nearly one-quarter (24.9%) of all positions in China’s single-house parliament are held by women, placing it 69th out of 193 countries.22
A Gender Pay Gap Persists in China’s Labor Force23
Women earn on average 36% less than men for doing similar work, ranking in the bottom third of the Global Gender Gap Index (ranked 103rd out of 149 countries).24
Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce—Global.
Human Rights Watch, “China—Events of 2017,” World Report 2018 (2018).
Lean In China and Deloitte, 2017 Women, Work and Happiness: Impact of Women in the Workplace in a Digital Age Report (2018).
Laura Sabattini, Expanding Work-Life Perspectives: Talent Management in China (Catalyst, 2012).
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China (September 2015).
Jonathan Woetzel, Anu Madgavkar, Kevin Sneader, Oliver Tonby, Diaan-Yi Lin, John Lydon, Sha Sha, Mekala Krishnan, Kweilin Ellingrud, and Michael Gubieski, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia Pacific (McKinsey & Company, April 2018).
US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Status of Women,” 2018 Annual Report (2018).
How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce—China (January 9, 2019).
4. Liyan Qi and Fanfan Wang, “A Limit to China’s Economic Rise: Not Enough Babies,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2018.
6. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, “Percentage of Total Population by Broad Age Group, Both Sexes (Per 100 Total Population), Age 65+,” World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision (2017).
8. Tertiary education describes “all post-secondary education, including both public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools.” The World Bank, “Higher Education,” The World Bank Topics (October 5, 2017).
11. Asian Development Bank, Gender Equality and the Labor Market: Women, Work, and Migration in the People’s Republic of China (2017): p. v.
12. Sukti Dasgupta, Makiko Matsumoto, and Cuntao Xia, “Women in the Labour Market in China,” ILO Asia-Pacific Working Paper Series (May 2015): p. 3, 21-22, 29; OECD, OECD Economic Surveys: China Overview (March 2017): p. 44.
13. The World Bank, “Labor Force Participation Rate, Female (% of Female Population Ages 15+) (Modeled ILO Estimate), China, 2017,” The World Bank Databank (2018); The World Bank, “Labor Force Participation Rate, Male (% of Male Population Ages 15+) (Modeled ILO Estimate), China, 2017,” The World Bank Databank (2018).
14. The World Bank, “Labor Force, Female (% of Total Labor Force), China, 2017,” The World Bank Databank (2018).
15. Peter Vanham, “Women in China Contribute More to GDP than in the US. Viewing Them as ‘Leftover’ Is Problematic,” World Economic Forum, April 12, 2018.
16. Human Rights Watch, “Only Men Need Apply”: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China (2018): p. 2.
17. Human Rights Watch, “Only Men Need Apply”: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China (2018): p. 28, 30.
20. Human Rights Watch, “Only Men Need Apply”: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China (2018): p. 9-10.